Edward Michael Jackman


Melvin Baker

Originally published in the Newfoundland Quarterly, vol.LXXXVIII, no. 3 (Summer/Fall 1992)

E.M. Jackman

Edward Michael Jackman was born in St. John's on 29 February 1868 the son of Michael Jackman and Margaret Lanigan. Jackman's father and uncles were well-known sealing captains from Renews south of St. John's. Educated at the Christian Brothers School in St. John's, Jackman in 1880 apprenticed as a tailor in St. John's and later worked in Boston and New York. Upon returning to St. John's in 1889 he established his own tailoring business known as "Jackman the Tailor". According to a 1894 biographical account of prominent St. John's residents, "Ned" Jackman was a "hustler" with boundless energy and organizational skills in his commercial and public life. In 1890 "Jackman the Tailor" had a work force of 10 people; in the early 1900s the firm had approximately fifty employees. The company provided custom tailoring, sold imported gentlemen's clothing (after 1893), and also operated a dry goods business. In the early l900s Jackman published his own periodical magazine--- Jackman's Review-- which contained, besides advertisements for his firm, articles on public issues of dhe day and literary contributions.

In 1910 Jackman attempted to expand his business by manufacturing ready made clothing. The expansion proved critical and "Jackman the Tailor" found itself overextended. By 1912 he had restructured the company and successfully satisfied his creditors. Under these new arrangements he remained on salary with the company, officially as its managing director, but one of his sons managed the company. Success for the company was shortlived; in January 1915, the shareholders placed it in liquidation because of the devastating effect of the war on the company's fortunes with business declining by 50 % with average weekly losses of between $300 and $1000.

Jackman served as president of the tailors' union in the mid-1880s and helped other union tradesmen to unite in an affiliation movement under the auspices of the Mechanics society. In 1900 unionized iron ore miners at Bell Island chose Jackman as their negotiator in successful talks which ended their six-week old strike in July. The agreement, negotiated over a period of three days with iron ore company officials at Kelligrews and known as the "Treaty of Kelligrews", provided for increased wages for the miners.

From the early 1890s Jackman had been closely identified with the Liberal Party led by William Whiteway and later by Robert Bond. In 1893 the Liberal Government appointed him secretary of the St. John's fire brigade commission charged with establishing a paid fire service for the city following the fire the previous year that destroyed much of St. John's. Another indication of the rising prominence of the young aspiring politician in the community of the mid-1890s was his election by distressed bank creditors as chairman of a citizens' relief committee to represent their interests following the collapse in December 1894 of the island's commercial banking system. Prominent in many Catholic social organizations, in 1893 he became president of the Star of the Sea Association and held the presidency until his death in 1916. His uncle, sealing captain William Jackman, had been the first president of the association in 1871. He was also a life long member of the Total Abstinence Society.

From the early 1890s he was a frequent writer to the press on public issues of the day and in 1898, for instance, was a vocal critic of the railway contract the government of Sir James Winter signed with Canadian railway contractor Robert Reid. In 1900 Jackman contested the district of Placentia and St. Mary's on behalf of Bond's victorious Liberals and was appointed Minister of Finance and Customs. He was re-elected in both 1904 and 1908. From 1900 to 1909 Jackman presided over a period of economic prosperity for Newfoundland highlighted by a budget surplus of $125,000 for the 1907-08 fiscal year. As a government representative Jackman negotiated with the Canadian government to resolve tariff difficulties between the two governments and arranged with Canada for the establishment of regulations to inspect passenger and coastal steamers operating between the two countries. Jackman was defeated in the 1909 general election losing the district to Frank Morris, brother of Edward Patrick Morris, whose People's party won the election.

Publicly, Jackman was an anti-confederate but privately he supported closer relations and even union with Canada. In July 1913 he met with Sir Thomas Shaughnessy, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, offering his services to promote confederation within both Newfoundland and Canada. Jackman wanted financial assistance to undertake his "campaign of education" because a "few years I met financial reverses." He informed Shaughnessy that despite his public support for Bond, he had in fact made a secret political alliance with Morris, whom he would support regardless of the outcome of the 1913 election. If Morris were to win, then he, Jackman, would run in his old district of Placentia and St. Mary's as Frank Morris would resign following the forthcoming election if successful since Frank Morris preferred a judicial appointment. Prime Minister Morris in turn had promised Jackman his old ministerial position of Finance Minister.

Jackman actually did not undertake his proposed confederation campaign, but his contacts with Canadian politicians and businessmen proved useful in October 1914 when Prime Minister Morris sent him to meet with members of the Conservative government of Sir Robert Borden in Ottawa. Both Newfoundland and Canada were once more in preliminary negotiations on confederation between the two countries and the desire of the Reid Newfoundland Company to sell its railway to either Canadian businessmen or the Canadian government was critical to the success of the negotiations. Jackman remained in Ottawa until June 1915 and carried on extensive talks with Solicitor-General Arthur Meighen. In June 1915 William Reid appointed Jackman his company's representative in these talks and Jackman quickly settled matters between Ottawa and the company. By mid-1916 these negotiations had collapsed because of the opposition to confederation from William Coaker, whose lack of support for confederation was critical. In the midst of these long negotiations, Jackman became seriously ill and was hospitalized in Montreal where he died on 20 July 1916.

(Research for this biographical profile is based on material found in the E.M. Jackman Scrapbooks, MG-299 at the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador)